Health advice about the benefits of fruit may be rather more sophisticated today than the old adage of an apple a day keeping the doctor away, but the message is basically the same - eat more fruit and you'll be healthier, and the opportunities this presents have not been lost on juice producers. Annette Sessions reports.

Consumers know that juice is healthy, a message reinforced by governments' 5+ a day initiatives. Co-sponsored by the World Health Organisation, the recommendation that our diet should include at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day has been one of the most successful global health messages.

It has also been an integral part of the World Cancer Research Fund's (WCRF) drive to reduce cancer. According to the WCRF, research has shown that eating at least five portions of vegetables and fruits each day could, in itself, reduces cancer rates by 20%.

Now the French-based International Federation of Fruit Juice Producers (IFU) has issued official confirmation of fruit juices' nutritional qualities. Such positive endorsement of fruit juice efficacy in maintaining health is very good news for manufacturers of juice drinks.

The IFU states that citrus juices provide sufficient vitamin C to be a major proportion of the daily values, while grape juice and tomato juices are rich sources of antioxidants (polyphenolics and lycopene respectively), and the polyphenolics in grape juice have shown a positive effect on parameters related to cardiovascular disease. Other health benefits promoted by the IFU include the positive effect of the antioxidants in Jaffa 'sweetie' grapefruit juice on indicators relating to hypercholesterolemia, the link between cranberry juice and reduced risk of urinary infections, and the association between the phytochemicals found in apples and apple juice with reduced risk of impaired lung function. In addition, diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Fruit sources of potassium include prunes and prune juice, orange juice and bananas.

Indeed, prune juice is one of the new drinks for 2006. Introduced by Grove Fresh, the UK's organic juice brand, the drink is targeted at the over-40s, the group with the highest percentage of organic consumers and shoppers who select juice for its specific health benefits. Grove Fresh is marketing the juice as having beneficial antioxidants including "a high oxygen radical absorbance capacity which helps to keep skin looking young". It is also a good - almost legendary - source of fibre.

In the US, Tropicana has kicked off 2006 with the launch of what is claimed to be the first US national orange juice with fibre. Tropicana Pure Premium Essentials with Fibre delivers 3 grams of added fibre in every 8oz glass - as much fibre as is found in a medium-sized orange.

Americans need more fibre in their diets. Nine out of 10 adults fail to meet the adequate intake levels for dietary fibre according to the most recent US Department of Agriculture food intake data.

Meanwhile in Germany, one of the world's most famous children's fruit juice drinks, Capri-Sonne, has been given a makeover which includes only using fruits from controlled integrated fruit production. The Institut Fresenius, based in Taunusstein, Germany, will carry out regular quality inspections and award its quality seal confirming that Capri-Sonne only processes fruit from integrated fruit production and that the fruit juice drink contains neither preserving agents nor artificial colouring.

Addressing the ongoing concerns over childhood obesity, Capri-Sonne has introduced two new calorie-reduced flavours: apple-blackcurrant and orange-passion fruit. The drinks contain 30% less sugar than the classical range and 30% fewer calories than pure fruit juice. Only fruit cultivars with a distinct sugar-acid ratio are used for the calorie-reduced flavours. These are said to taste less sweet, yet keep their fruity flavour.

Hero, the US$1.4bn Swiss-based international food group, has launched its successful Fruit2day juice drink in the UK. The drink, made with real fruit pieces, delivers two real portions of fruit in one 205ml bottle, thus providing two of the recommended five. There are three variants: mango peach, strawberry orange and pineapple banana.

Hero is aiming to capture a share of the smoothie market driven by innocent which is currently in the throes of a multi-million pound marketing campaign. innocent has also launched its spring Lychees & Passion fruit smoothie and a guest smoothie - Mangoes, Coconuts & Lemongrass. Lemongrass is the interesting ingredient. Apparently it is rich in citral, believed to help digestion and relieve ailments such as headaches and fevers.

The soaring popularity of the smoothie is, according to Ocean Spray, largely responsible for the upsurge in cranberry puree sales in the UK. The company reports sales have more than doubled in the past 12 months as health-aware consumers reach for a nutritious, fruit-based drink.

Also, the popularity of pomegranate juice continues to rise. The fruit is rich in antioxidants and scientific studies have shown it to be beneficial to heart health. James White has now launched the UK's first ever organic pomegranate and apple juice drink.

Another pomegranate juice has been launched in Norway by Stabburet. Called Nora Granateplejuice, it is the latest addition to the company's Nora juice range, which comprises 100% fruit juice drinks. Aimed at today's ubiquitous health-conscious consumer the drinks are preservative- and additive-free.

Source: Soft Drinks International

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